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PSs among accounting officers to undergo fresh lifestyle audits

By Paul Wafula | May 17th 2016
National Treasury CS Henry Rotich. Treasury has said it would vet all accounting officers, as well as officers who have authority to incur expenditure. (PHOTO:BONIFACE OKENDO/ STANDARD)

Principal Secretaries are among thousands of State employees whose lifestyles will be audited in a renewed anti-corruption push by the Government.

In a move set to rattle public servants who deal with money and budgets in Government, the Treasury said it would vet all accounting officers, as well as officers who have authority to incur expenditure.

“In the short term, a process of continuous and objective lifestyle audits for all accounting officers as well as authority to incur expenditure (AIE) holders will be implemented,” Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said in his Budget Policy Statement.

Adverse effects

Accounting officers include permanent secretaries, and heads of Government departments and parastatals.

“The Government is fully cognizant of the adverse effects of corruption on the economy. The measures articulated in the ‘National Call to Action’ will be fully implemented,” said Mr Rotich.

The vetting exercise is planned for the next financial year (2016-17) that starts next month.

“The Government will also finalise other measures for linking of critical databases to enhance our capacity and capability for detection, thwarting and penalising corrupt activities,” Rotich said.

The policy statement was released ahead of the Budget speech, which Rotich is expected to deliver in Parliament next month.

The Treasury said progress had been made in entrenching good governance in public institutions.

Some of the achievements listed in the fight against economic crimes in the current financial year include the investigation of 107 corruption and economic crime cases and averting a Sh1.6 billion loss by disruption of corruption networks.

It is estimated that Kenya could be losing as much as Sh400 billion annually — or about a fifth of the current fiscal year’s Budget — to wastage, pilferage and theft.

The Treasury also says that 11 corruptly acquired assets had been traced, while the Government had also recovered Sh140 million assets and reviewed four systems to seal fraud loopholes.

“In addition, 2.4 million persons were sensitised or enlisted to combat corruption, and six county or regional offices established in a bid to fight corruption,” the statement said.

Procurement shake-up

The audit comes on the back of a major shake-up in accounting and procurement departments across all ministries that saw more than 7,000 staff transferred last month.

The Treasury reshuffled most middle-level employees and public finance management professionals that deal with money and tender documents in the central government.

Rotich said the redeployment was aimed at breaking cartels in State offices and improving efficiency in the delivery of Government services.

“We have about 4,000 accountants and more than 3,000 other employees in other departments who will be affected. It will affect all ministries across board,” Rotich told The Standard in an earlier interview.

“We have people who have been in one station for over 35 years and they do not know any other ministry. These have formed cartels and that is what we want to break.”

This is the latest attempt by the Government to deal with the procurement mess that has seen taxpayers lose billions of shillings through corruption.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) was the first agency to attempt a lifestyle audit under the current administration, but the exercise has been slow and took months to start.

KRA said it was using a risk-based approach, where it prioritises the most vulnerable cadres of its employees for vetting. The agency said it had started background searches on about 70 top executives.

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